90 Percent of Iraqi Christians Displaced, Fleeing Religious Persecution from ISIS

( [email protected] ) Oct 28, 2014 05:36 PM EDT
Iraqi Refugees
Refugees fleeing from Mosul head to the self-ruled northern Kurdish region in Irbil, Iraq. (AP)

Over ninety percent of Iraqi Christians are left displaced and fleeing religious persecution following the Islamic State's invasion of the country, reports a Greek Orthodox Bishop living in Baghdad.

In an interview with Al Monitor, Ghattas Hazim revealed that ISIS persecution have forced a majority of Christians in the area to flee, while those remaining fear their fate will be similar to those already living in ISIS-conquered areas of Iraq and Syria.

In Baghdad, he said, only 30 of 600 Christian families remain, while in Mosul, which is the oldest Christian city in the country, fewer than ten Christian families remain. In Basra, not a single Christian remains

"The return of those who have been displaced back to their homes is linked to the political and security situation. We cannot urge anyone to go back now, in light of this ongoing war in different regions in Iraq," Hazim told the outlet.

He added that he plans to return to Iraq and will deliver an update on the situation as he tries to reestablish Christianity in the region.

Many Christians have fled to Erbil, Iraq, a Kurdish city which Hazim says "welcomes our sons who move there from all over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon."

According to the report, the religious leader also feels the global Christian community could have done more to help Middle Eastern Christians.

"It is not true that the West is facilitating the emigration of Christians," he said. "I know many Christians and Orthodox in particular who went to embassies and did not get visas. Others resorted to the United Nations and other international organizations in order to emigrate and it did not work out."

Religious minorities, including Christians, have been targeted by the Islamic State since its rise to power earlier this year. In July, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of the Iraqi Catholic Church warned that Islamic State violence may lead to "the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co-existence between majorities and minorities."

Shortly after his statement, ISIS forced the once thriving Christian community out of Mosul,  forcing all believers to accept death, exile, or conversion.

Maythim Najib, 37, who fled from Mosul with his family after being stabbed 12 times by ISIS militants, called the loss of Mosul's Christian community "unspeakably devastating."

Under the Islamic State, "diversity is dead or at least dying," he said.